Do you feel just a little bit sick every day? Am I the only one who feels pangs of awkwardness, fear, and distress? So much has been thrown at us in such a short amount of time. As American Catholics, and for me as a woman, the past few months have been emotionally difficult.
I also wonder if everyone else was listening to the Kavanaugh hearing on Thursday with acute attention like I was. What a roller coaster of emotions: sympathy, anger, distrust, and utter confusion. When are we going to catch a break? Then the next day, Archbishop Vigano released another statement.
While I do not feel qualified to comment on the current state of affairs in the church or in American society, I can only share four real examples of things that took place recently that were hard decisions I made.
Reported an Incident
Recently I was visiting a Catholic parish/school campus for a meeting. As I was getting in my car in the parking lot, I saw a school student leave the building around approximately 2:30pm (prior to dismissal). He was walking towards the parking lot with a man that I assumed to be his father. I saw the man grab the boy’s backpack and violently throw it into the trunk of the car. He then aggressively pushed the boy so much so that the boy staggered back. I couldn’t hear the precise words, but the man was yelling at the boy. The boy began to run back towards the school entrance. The man yelled to the boy (again I could not hear what he said) and the boy turned back towards the car, got in, and the car sped off in a fury.
My heart was pounding so hard. It all happened so fast and I remember toying in my head with the decision to run towards them and intervene or to take a picture of the car license plate…..it was so sudden, so shocking, and I was just dumbstruck. While I didn’t move quickly enough to catch them, I composed myself to call the office after the car pulled off. I reported everything to the school administration including a description of the boy and the man. I knew they would have a sign out sheet to indicate who just exited the building.
Maybe I should have done more, maybe I misinterpreted the situation, but at the end of the day I know now, “If you see something, say something.” I can only trust that the school investigated the matter and followed proper procedures to ensure the boy’s safety.
Called a friend, Reached out to someone suffering
In light of all that took place recently, I felt great trepidation when I asked myself the question, “Am I a part of the problem? What have I covered up?” Having been a campus minister and religion teacher in my career, I recently spent many hours trying to remember various events and conversations. I scoured over memories and asked God to reveal anything I might be missing or overlooking. Is there anything I don’t want to face?
In fact, I did remember two conversations. While I will not share the details of them, I will share the hard decisions I made to revisit them. I called a friend and asked him to please report to the police and to the Archdiocesan Office of Child and Youth Protection something that he had shared with me a few years ago. After speaking with him, I realized that I did not clearly remember the details of the story and it involved something of a different nature; however, he was grateful that I reached out and that I shared with him the appropriate reporting structure of inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature in a church setting.
Then, I also remembered a time when a woman shared a very difficult story with me. The incident caused her pain and distress. While I do not know the validity of the story and it did not include any criminal behavior, I was brought back to that moment of her tears and her suffering. I was only 22 at the time and did not know the breadth of counseling services available or support opportunities. I was only a shoulder to cry on that day, but now I am so grateful that the recent events have brought to light the options that can be found for those in need. I find it imperative to educate oneself on those services and to also be bold in sharing them with others. But what can I do ten years later? Well, I reached out to her. I casually tried to connect and let her know I was thinking of her recently, said a prayer for her, and asked how she was doing….what was she up to these days….etc.
Maybe I should have done more, maybe I misinterpreted the situation, but at the end of the day I know now “Boys will be boys” is no longer an accepted statement in our society. We are better than that, we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard. We need to embrace chastity because it leads to joy instead of pain and suffering.
Went to Confession
I also have been struck with the ugliness of my own sin. I want to be holy. I want to honor my Lord and Savior. So, I went to confession this week. That might not seem like such a bold move, but I don’t go often enough. And when I do, it is ALWAYS a release of guilt, baggage, and bad habits. It was so helpful to me to talk to a priest behind a confessional screen so that I had the anonymity to share my fear and anger. I was so grateful to be able to cry and be vulnerable about my lack of trust in so many people. To be able to voice those feelings out loud, to be able to face my own failings, and to then hear the words, “I absolve you from your sins.” Wow, what a gift.
I pray that we all will continue with boldness and a newness of resolve to be the best generation of Catholics, to be saints!